Friday, October 24, 2008

Blue Pearmain *

Nor is it every apple I desire,
Nor that which pleases every palate best;
'T is not the lasting Deuxan I require,
Nor yet the red-cheeked Greening I request,
Nor that which first beshrewed the name of wife,
Nor that whose beauty caused the golden strife:
No, no! bring me an apple from the tree of life!

Thoreau asked for apples of the spirit, but many sources say that the Blue Pearmain was one of his earthly favorites.

This doughty apple gets its name from what many call a "deep blue bloom." I'd describe this as a dusty bluish coating over the blush, which is itself crimson with deep purple streaks. The "bloom" rubs off.

Many small light-brown lenticels freckle this handsome finish, which is also (to my mind) made even more striking by a touch of orange russet, mostly in and around the stem well. The fruit itself is ribbed and very firm in the hand, and--unbroken--smells sweet and grassy.

The flesh is dense, yellow, coarse, and just in case I didn't say, dense. More on that later. The flavor is mild and sweet, but not simple, with hints of pear, melon, caramel, vanilla, and corn. There is the merest suggestion of something like grapefruit peel in the undertow.

None of these flavors are strong and there is not a lot of juice. One of these would not quench your thirst. But the parade of tastes, though muted, is unusual and rewarding.

I have had Blue Pearmains before and every time I am struck by how heavy they are. Some apples linger on the palate, but BP sticks to your ribs. It's like eating a potato, practically a meal. I can understand the appeal for Thoreau: here is nature's own power bar, only more satisfying.

A 1922 encyclopedia of fruits says that the Blue Pearmain's origins are unknown but that the fruit dates from at least the early 19th century in New England.

I know a Blue-Pearmain tree, growing within the edge of a swamp, almost as good as wild. You would not suppose that there was any fruit left there, on the first survey, but you must look according to system.... If I am sharp-set, for I do not refuse the Blue-Pearmain, I fill my pockets on each side; and as I retrace my steps in the frosty eve, being perhaps four or five miles from home, I eat one first from this side, and then from that, to keep my balance.


4 comments:

  1. Eastman's Antique Apple had Blue Pearmain and 49 other varieties at the Midland Farmers Market in Michigan today. They said it is more beautiful hanging on the tree with it bloom! Can't wait to taste it and the Red Butterscotch.They have the complete list of apple on their blog. http://eastmansantiqueapples.com/blog/

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  2. What an impressive set of choices.

    And what a great use of the blogging platform, listing what varieties are ready to eat NOW.

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  3. Imagine, I am a Pearmain, this apple was developed by one of my ancestors and I've never even seen one! LOL

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    Replies
    1. Do you mean that your name is Pearmain?

      The word seems to have been a descriptive term for a kind of apple for hundreds of years (since 1597, according to the OED). There are many Pearmain apples, too.

      Do you have any specific knowledge about the origins of the Blue P? Please tell.

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